Professional development = never stop learning
As an accountant, it’s important to keep up to date with changing legislation. To be able to provide my clients with the most accurate and appropriate advice, I need to be constantly learning, up skilling and ensuring I know what’s what in my profession. This ongoing need to seek knowledge isn’t limited to ‘beancounters’ or those in other professional services. It’s important for for ALL business.
What is professional development?
I view professional development as being a student for life. I am forever learning in my chosen field, accounting. Technically speaking, it means formal learning to earn or maintain professional credentials. For me, that means completing enough hours in a year to continue as a Chartered Accountant (CA). Chartered Accountants spend years completing further education and study to be able to call themselves that. Due to the strict requirements and eligibility to become a CA, they are highly regarded in the business services and consulting industry. As a result, each year hours of ongoing professional development is required to maintain this title.
My business – Little Miss Bookkeeping
Who needs to do professional development?
I was speaking with a client recently. She asked me about the tax implications of putting her apartment on Air BnB. In Australia, this has been a hotly debated topic in the accounting world. Because the Air BnB trend here is still relatively new, the ongoing financial issues and solutions are somewhat in a grey area. For me, it was time to skill up and do some learning!
As the sole business owner of Little Miss Bookkeeping, keeping my technical knowledge up to date is key to business survival. As I don’t always have someone to bounce knowledge off, its a duty of care to my clients to ensure I’m setting aside time for ongoing technical training. With every professional service, you won’t always have the answer right then and there. It’s important to be developing your technical skills to to provide sound advice when its required.
If you are lucky enough to have a team, it important that they are also striving to keep learning. Internal staff training on a software update is a common example. Invest in your employees and consider external workshops and events. The benefits will far outweigh the costs.
Being a part of public practice accounting firms for almost 7 years, internal and external training was regular and periodic – weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually. Because the training was set for us, it was sort of ‘spoon feed’. I didn’t have to think about setting aside time (training was scheduled in our work calendars) or search for appropriate workshops (speakers would sometimes attend our local office). Now, as a independent business owner, I have to proactively think about doing this myself. No reminders.
How does this affect me?
Let’s look at professional development from the point of view of a business owner in the beauty industry. Say they are offering services in hairdressing, waxing, nails, lashes and hair removal. Some questions that might come up for this type of business include:
- Am I using right products for waxing to ensure my clients get the best result without any adverse reactions?
- My clients are requesting vegan products – what are they and how can I source them?
- A client asked me about a new hair removal technique/option that I’ve never heard of. How do I learn more about this and keep up to date with new services in the beauty industry?
- My point of sale system is slow and clunky. My employees often have trouble using it. How do I find out about other point of sale systems on the market, specific to my business?
Continued professional development in your industry will help to questions like these.
Reasons why you need to keep on top of your professional development
1. Changes in law/legislation – let’s face it, laws change. In the accounting world, they can change pretty quickly and often. For example, in Australia tax rates recently changed, thus our client advice must too.
2. Updates to relevant industry software – software is constantly changing. Companies spend millions on research and development to be the best at what they do. For example, Xero (a cloud-based accounting software) is always making improvements to provide a better user experience or create new functions. As a result, bookkeepers and accountants must keep up to date on new features to be able to help our clients in the right way. We can’t think that a software is going to be the same forever. Processes will and do change – don’t get left behind.
3. New software options – be in the know around any new programs, software or technology that might benefit your clients. So if a client comes to you with a fancy, new program that everyone has been ‘raving about’, you want to be able to provide advice as to if it suits them. Don’t be a deer in the headlights!
4. Give the most accurate and appropriate advice – there’s no point giving advice if it’s wrong and outdated. This can be disastrous! Up to date knowledge = up to date advice.
5. Staying competitive – long story short, if you are staying on top of your game you’ll be able to service your clients much better and in turn grow your business!
How to stay on track of your ongoing professional development
1. Ask your colleagues and networks – More often than not, your colleagues and people in your industry networks are already attending training events on a regular basis. If attending external training is new to you, ask if you can tag along.
2. Subscribe to relevant industry organisations – subscribe to newsletters to be the first to know about upcoming training, workshops and networking events. If you need to keep track of your professional development hours, check which events count towards maintaining your professional membership, but don’t discredit other relevant workshops that will grow your skills.
3. Google/Facebook/Eventbrite – Look up event websites for local training workshops. Think outside the box and consider events that you wouldn’t normally attend, but would be greatly beneficial to your development and business.
4. Make a plan – will it be 1 x online webinar, networking event or workshop a month, quarter, year? If you make a plan and spread it out over a year, it will be much easier to execute. Schedule around busy seasons and don’t get into the habit of saying ‘I’m too busy’.